“But the Lord Almighty will be exalted by His justice” (Isaiah 5:16)
Many people fear the wrath of God. They perceive Him as an angry judge. True – we are accountable to Him whether or not we acknowledge His supremacy, and for our response to Him, one day all people will be judged (Philippians 2:10, Hebrews 12:23). For that reason, if we are not right with God, one might well fear Him.
It is interesting then to explore the words of Isaiah. “God will be exalted by His justice” (Isaiah 5:16) This quality is one that brings us to reverential worship. Why? Because we know He will be fair in His judgment. Since God is all-knowing, He views a bigger picture than our finite vision allows. He knows the thoughts and intentions of our hearts (Psalm 94:11), when sometimes even we do not understand ourselves. Paul spoke of that dilemma when he exclaimed “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15).
Perhaps this is why scripture instructs us not to judge others. Jesus warned: “Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged” ( Matthew 7:1). Our understanding is obstructed by the plank in our own eye through which we try to assess the sawdust in our brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3ff).
Notice that Isaiah’s prophecy begins with a “but”. Looking at the previous verses we see that in spite of all that Israel had done to displease God, and the punishment they had therefore brought down upon their own heads, “God would show Himself Holy by His righteousness” (Isaiah 5:16).
Contrasting verses 15 and 17 we see man brought low, humbled (:15) but then as God exercises His justice, the nation, redeemed because of His righteousness “will graze as in their own pasture” (:17). This is a picture resembling Psalm 23 which so many people find comforting in times of trouble. “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul” (:2-3). What a beautiful picture of peace and contentment in the place designed for restoration!
This is what exalts our God above every other God – the mercy and grace of His tender Spirit towards fallen man. You see – justice has been served. Jesus Christ died on the cross, taking the sins of mankind on Himself – paying that awful penalty, so that we might be freed from guilt and condemnation (Romans 8:1). “He sacrificed for their sins, once for all when He offered Himself” (Hebrews 7:27). This is the ultimate expression of love – God’s love which tempers His justice with mercy and grace.
How much does mankind know of real love today?
Are we fair in our perception of our great God or does our fear of His justice, often born of unresolved
guilt, colour our response to His great gift of love?
Do we fear God out of respect for the qualities in His character which links wisdom with love, exalting His supremacy in all that is worthy of worship?
by Marilyn Daniels